Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A G.I. JOE SKETCHBOOK PT. 2

I'm always surprised at just how much this series was an influence on and was enjoyed by so many people. This set of sketches taught me just how much the fans took to it. Enjoy!














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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

A G.I. JOE SKETCHBOOK PT. 1







The two jobs that I worked on in my career that still resonate with fans these days are first the one hundred "covers" I created for the HBO Tales From the Crypt series that ran for seven seasons. Second there is my association with Hasbro's GI Joe, where I penciled the comic books series (issues #9-20,22-23) and once I moved to LA, worked on storyboarding episodes of the animated series four a couple of years. 






Working on the comic book in the early eighties was certainly not my favorite assignment. It was not one of the "popular" books at Marvel (though who knew what a monster commercial hit it would be), and while everyone insured me it was a  "spy" adventure, I found it hard to get past the "war" connotation. Lara Hama's writing was brilliant and fun to work on, though Larry was a rather taciturn with his comments. The inker probably fit the series well, but it became increasingly clear that no matter what I was doing to improve the quality of my penciling, the results always remained the same. Since I was working in Battle Creek MI and mailing the work in, it was difficult to plead my case.






When I left the series editor Denny O'Neill called me desperately asking my help to do one more issue because the one they had assigned to Russ Heath looked to never be completed. While he couldn't offer me more than the base pay for "pencil breakdowns", he did promise me that there was a heft royalty payment on the issues. So I did the favor,  penciled issue #24 and sent it in. Lo and behold, when the book came out, Russ had managed to get his work in at the last minute, and it was magnificent. However, not a word from Denny explaining any of this to me...and so much for that royalty payment. (If I can scare up all the xerox's I'll print that in a future Vozcomix blog.)









Working on the animated series, because I had moved to LA, had the distinct advantage of working in house and dealing daily and directly with my directors and producer. Once I managed to convince them that I could actually storyboard (another interesting story), I found that my work was not only respected but admired by the other artists.  And while it didn't pay royalties, the animation salary I thought was phenomenal. There were many friends I made in those days that I still cherish to this day. (And speaking of royalties, IDW has never paid any of the creative talent a dime in royalties for all the work they have continually reprinted.)








Growing up after Korea and watching the Vietnam fiasco unfold, by the time the Gulf Wars rolled around, I really wanted to disassociate myself from any connection with the military. And no matter how much they pushed the "spy" concept, GI Joe to me was the perfect fantasy for convincing youngsters that the army and combat was a fun place to be. Consequently, I've always had misgivings about the series. However, meeting all the wonderful fans over the years has eroded some of those, and fulfilling their requests for sketches gave me a chance to pencil and ink my renditions of their heroes. Here's hoping you enjoy looking at this portfolio as much as I enjoyed drawing it.  




Next week, stay tuned for part 2 of the portfolio. Don't miss it!!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

E. A. Abbey in Color




When I was living in Kalamazoo, MI, my  friend and neighbor Jim “The King” Wellington had a print hanging in his front room that always blew me away when I would see it.  The picture had three women, one in black, one in red, and one in white, standing and looking at each other. It was rife with symbolism, infused with drama, and handled with a mastery of draftsmanship and painted in a classical style. While I never could get Jim to part with it, he was gracious enough to lend it to me for an extended period of time.

Two of the sisters from King Lear. and below, a closeup of Cordelia from the larger mural.




These were pre-internet days and being fairly ignorant of illustrators and paintings, I had no idea that the artist was Edwin Austin Abbey and that the picture itself, a scene from Shakespeare’s King Lear  featuring his three daughters, was quite famous. Before I returned the print to Jim, I do remember using one of the central figures as a character in the Sisterhood of Steel comic I was drawing at the time.

Twelfth Night

McBeth

Richard the Third

Hamlet

Ten years later when I was working on HBO’s Tales From the Crypt they were shooting at the Mount St. Mary’s University library. The room was dominated by three different mural forms Shakespearean plays. One look and I realized this was the same artist who’s work had stunned me a decade before. Fortunately, when I mentioned the work to my good friend Bill Stout, he immediately explained to me whose work this was. 





Two gentleman of Verona




Working in the latter part of the nineteenth century, Abbey was famous for his intricate pen and ink drawings done for Harper’s.  Full color reproduction was a luxury at best, so linework dominated the drawings done at the time. However, Abbey was also involved in designing sets and costumes for a number of Shakespeare’s plays as well as producing several large murals featuring literary subjects, and these are the source of most of the color work presented here. 
Costume designs



(The Abbey bio below is from Arpi Emoyan's excellent book on Hall of Fame Illustrators, Famous American Illustrators. A must for your book collection.)

Edwin Austin Abbey (1852-1911) 
The brilliant draftsmanship of Edwin Austin Abbey's pen and ink drawings were perfectly suited to the reproduction techniques of the late 1800's. His genius as an artist was further established when he began working in other media as well- watercolor, oil, pastel- and swiftly mastered them all. 



Henry VI
A major contributor to the "Golden Age of American Illustration". Abbey was held in high esteem by art establishments on both sides of the Atlantic. Living in England as an American expatriate, he became a full member of the Royal Academy, painted the coronation of King Edward VII at the King's request, but declined an offer of knighthood in order to retain his U.S. citizenship.


Hamlet

Growing up in Philadelphia, Abbey attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and began illustrating books and magazines at the age of 16. At 19 he joined the staff at Harper's, concentrating on English scenes and Shakespearean works. A trip abroad in 1871 made him realize that England was a great source for authentic props, costumes, and backgrounds for his historical illustrations. He returned there seven years later to take up permanent residence.


Even his enormous murals for the Boston public library and the State Capitol in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, were painted in England. The Capitol murals, for which he paid $25 per square foot, are now valued at well over a million dollars.

In 1889 Abbey married a socialite and at their summer home in Gloucestershire they entertained such notables as Charles Dana Gibson, Augustus St. Gaudens, Stanford White, Henry James, James McNeill Whistler, Mark Twain and Arthur Conan Doyle. John Singer Sargent, a close friend, often used Abbey's Chelsea lodge studio in London.

Arthurian legends






Abbey died in London in 1911, leaving behind an unfinished mural and a large collection of exquisite pen-and-ink illustrations. Today the Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven maintains the worlds largest repository of Abbey's works.

For more on Abbey, you can check out the link to Wikipedia  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edwin_Austin_Abbey, or track down the volume Unfaded Pageant by Lucy Oakley at Amazon.com.